Tusayan council takes over as flood plain administrators, takes closer look at FEMA maps

TUSAYAN, Ariz. - The Tusayan town council voted to be administrators for the town's the flood plains April 20.

Council members will compile prior and future flood plain studies to submit to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) in order to get accurate maps of trouble areas in the town.

Coconino County was the responsible entity prior to the vote.

John Rueter, vice mayor of Tusayan, said one of the first priorities of the council as the administrators, is to get all former flood studies in one place and have that information updated in order to give an accurate representation of flooding and runoff dangers in the town.

"We want that data to reflect accurate flood plain information and storm water," Rueter said. "With the information we just recently had completed - we've done a lot of aerial topography with one foot contours, we think we can take that information and supply that to FEMA and get the flood plain to be accurate."

According to Rueter, the town is better equipped to be the administrators because they know the layout of the town and surrounding areas and have the ability to update the maps, which currently contain errors.

"We are the best equipped to do it," he said. "I think the biggest liability you can run across in a flood plain is if you issue building permits in a flood plain. The county does not issue our building permits, we do."

Before the vote to take over as the administrators, several Tusayan residents spoke out in opposition. Tusayan resident, Clarinda Vail, on behalf of Bess Foster, John Thurston and Red Feather Properties spoke to the council in opposition to the town as administrators.

Vail asked if a flood plain study, funded by the town, had been completed and asked when it would be made public. She also asked if the town had considered the liability they would take on as administrators.

The council noted her opposition and, according to the town manager, said the study has not been completed because of a point of contention with the County Flood District over flow rates.

"Tusayan is a town now and as things go forward Tusayan will be like Williams or Flagstaff or other towns and will assume the roles and responsibilities of all these kind of infrastructure entities," Rueter said.

According to Rueter, there are not outstanding dangers of flooding in Tusayan but the town does need to have accurate mapping for future reference. These maps will reflect flood plains in and around the town as well as storm water runoff.

"Storm water is one thing and flood plains are another thing," he said. "It's not just the flood plain, its storm water also, because you don't have a flood until you have a fair amount of storm water. So when someone else in another jurisdiction, like the county, has been in charge of the flood plain, they do not include the storm water portion."

The town plans to update the maps for FEMA and put together a mitigation plan.

Flood plains across the U.S. are regulated by FEMA, a federal organization that supports citizens and first responders to build, sustain and improve the nation and to ensure, as a whole, is prepared and capable to protect against, respond to and recover from hazards and emergencies. Information is supplied to FEMA through counties, cities and regional organizations.

"Each area decides how they can best be the entity that is in charge of actually getting the data to FEMA," Rueter said.

The town is currently working on transferring administration of the flood plains and storm water from the Coconino County Flood District.

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